President George W. Bush addressed delegates to the Republican National Convention via satellite
from the White House, choosing to skip a personal appearance at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. It is a staunch reversal from the hero’s welcome President Bush received four years ago when the Republicans gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City. His speech this year
was also considerably toned down from the one he delivered
four years ago.
The crisis management of Hurricaine Gustav and its aftermath were cited as a reason for his staying away. It is more likely however, that the McCain campaign asked Bush to stay home rather than have the failings of his administration identified with his party's standard bearer for 2009.
President Bush became the first incumbent since Lyndon Johnson, 40 years ago in 1968, to skip his party's convention. Comparisons to Lyndon Johnson
are inevitable. Both are/were unpopular presidents entrapped by unpopular military actions. However, early on Bush had the upper hand on public opinion, while Johnson never enjoyed. It is easy to forget that President Bush had major public support at the onset of the invasion of Iraq. Even with the heavy fighting – which his neocon advisors
said would not occur – and Sadaam Hussein still at-large, the nation still rallied behind the president despite growing international criticism of the invasion. When Hussien was eventually Mr. Bush could have conceivably ridden off into the sunset with his legacy sealed. It was not to be.
Americans grew restless as the invasion became an occupation in iraq and a high number of injuries and casualties of U.S. troops began to mount. The justifications
the White House used to rally support the U.S. occupation of Iraq also began to wilt as it became evident the administration's claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction could not be substantiated. Most would all subsquently be proven to be lies or exagerations
. A number of weapons experts contradicted
Bush & Co. assessments before the invasion and began to publicly take issue with the White House over its justification during the occupation.
For an outgoing president, the last convention before leaving office should be a grand send-off set against the backdrop of partisan revelry. It is hard to imagine Ronald Reagan
or Bill Clinton
hiding out in the White House as his party convened to select its presidential succesor. Reagan and Clinton both used their final convention for political advantage and personal gravitace. George W. Bush's decision to opt out of the convention sends a larger signal to the American public about his party and the Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain.
While the party faithful may accept and welcome the president's absence from the convention, it suggests an abandonment and repudiation
of the "Bush Doctrine".
It is a signifigant development that may not escape the notice of the electorate byond the GOP.